Saturday, September 27, 2014

Childhood Cancer Month.



"You never truly understand something until it actually happens to you."


For those of you who may not know, this month is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Sure, what's the big deal, you ask? Lots of people get cancer and many of those people pass away from it. So why would childhood cancer be any different? Well, to tell you the truth, childhood cancer is the least researched of any cancer out there. It only accounts for 4% of all research funding and until you walk the walk, it won't affect you. You see, on November 15, 2007, I was pretty much like every other mom out there. I had a loving little boy who meant the world to me and my world was just peachy. Then on November, 16, I woke up to some horrible news and my little world came crashing down. That 4% meant more to me than anything else. Why? Well, because I wanted my son to survive. Wouldn't you? Every single day, more kids are being diagnosed and more kids are dying. The only good thing is that more parents are being affected and more parents are making it a point to help find a cure and fund research. These are our children and they deserve a future.

When Montana was diagnosed, life went on. It had to and we didn't have many choices other than to move forward each day and do what we needed to. Much of it was a blur and to this day, we look back and think, "Did we really go through all of that with a 2 year old for almost 3 years?" If I regret anything about his battle with cancer, it's that I didn't take more pictures of the day to day events. We have so many of him smiling, laughing, running and playing. Don't get me wrong, that is what we wanted but it also paints this image that it wasn't as bad as people think. There are no photos of him screaming from pain, crying from sickness, throwing up after procedures, bruises from shots, tears from the fear and so on. There were so many tears that we could fill photo books full of those images but at that time we only cared about his happiness. His smiles are what we lived for. It's not til years later that we wish we could show him just exactly what he went through. We wish we could try to explain in just some small way to strangers just exactly what these kids suffer through daily. It's not pretty. Cancer steals lives and it's stealing them as we speak.

There are so many wonderful organizations out there that are doing all they can to help fund research, to give kids amazing opportunites, and to help raise more awareness. If you are looking for a great organization to give to, we have a small list from experience that are absolutely amazing!

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
This hospital pretty much saved Montana's life. They went above and beyond anything we could ever have hoped for and still do. Patients NEVER see a bill, they are researching every single day to help find cures and the kids truly mean the world to them. LOVE THEM!!!

The Ronald McDonald House
We stayed here for roughly 8 months while in Memphis. The entire staff was so kind and super caring. They held parties, they made dinners and they always took care of the kids. The Ronald McDonald House was home to us during so many important dates and they always made sure it felt like home.

Make- A- Wish
This organization granted Montana his wish to go see Buzz Lightyear at Disney World. They go above and beyond trying to make sure the kids get what they "wish" for. They sent our family to Florida for an entire week while Montana was treated like a star. What's not to love about a non-profit who's entire goal is to put smiles on the faces of children suffering?

Give Kids the World
Give Kids the World is this amazing community that is located in Orlando, Florida. Imagine a neighborhood filled with joyful and happy kids all hanging out together. That is what this place is. GKTW housed us while on our Make A Wish trip. We had our own mini house and every day they would come by and leave treats and goodies for the kids. This village has a restaurant, amazing playrooms, a swimming pool and the nicest employees. We hope to take the kids one day to go volunteer here.

Roc Solid Foundation
Eric Newman was once a childhood cancer patient himself who later on (now) has turned his experiences with his battle into something amazing. He has created this awesome foundation that builds playgrounds for children who have battled cancer. They come to your house, take you out to breakfast and then you show up later to an awesomely built playground. Seriously, you could not ask for a better person with a bigger heart!!









Monday, September 22, 2014

Adventures in Williamsburg.

Chris has finished with the Army and I've been working big time on getting products done for the craft show. In between that amount of time we have been keeping busy doing things around town. When Chris finished working (for the time being), we had a mini celebration that included longboarding on one of our favorite hills, eating at a great fast food joint, a stroll in Colonial Williamsburg and BBQing. The days don't get better than that. If you ever get to Williamsburg, be sure to stop at The Cookout on Richmond Road. We had heard great things about it but just never had the chance to go there. The kids ended up loving their milkshakes and we got lots of yummy food for rather cheap. 

One of our other favorite places to go is to Yorktown Beach. The waterfront area is great for an evening stroll with the family. The parking is free, the beach is free and right now it's pretty empty. They have some great restaurants that sit along the water, there is a Ben and Jerry's and they have some cute little shops to stop in. Just be aware if playing in the water because they do have some jellyfish. Our kids don't really swim there often considering it has no waves. We live for the waves and all the sports that the ocean brings. :)  Montana loves catching the jellyfish however, and has actually caught some huge ones, so big that they barely fit in a beach bucket. 

It's hard to believe that in less than a month we will be hitting the road and finding a new home for awhile. The kids are super excited to be some place new and to experience some different places. This campground has been home now for 4 months but we definitely aren't complaining. It's been an amazing campground that has everything we need. The kids feel safe. They can run, and bike and board and we hardly have to worry. We also feel very fortunate to have lived in such a historic and highly valued vacation spot. The Historic Triangle offers many great things to see and do. It's not too often that kids have the opportunity to run down the streets of Colonial Williamsburg daily, eat at amazing places, swim in great rivers, and live among such valued history. It's truly been a wonderful place for our first adventure on the road. 












Friday, September 19, 2014

29.

Today is my brother's birthday. He would be 29. This birthday is just different though. When Paul was killed, I was 29 and he was 23. It really makes me think of all the experiences and all the memories I was able to create from the age of 23 to 29. In that amount of time, I got married, had 3 kids, had a son battle cancer, traveled to many places, and learned many new things. He never got that. None of it. It just puts into perspective that each day is truly a gift. I have no idea how many more years, days or even hours I have left on this earth. I do know that I want to live them with his memory in mind. He didn't fight and die for nothing. He died for my freedom and for my ability to take this life and live it to the fullest. He fuels the adventure that lives inside me. I live for men and women like him who have willingly sacrificed so much for people like you and me. Life is a gift... enjoy it!

Happy 29th Birthday Paul. I will see you in heaven again one day.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Closing one chapter, starting another.

When I married Chris, I never saw the military life for us. It definitely did not suite him and it just wasn't in his cards. He had no real ties to it but did have some relatives who served. I, however, grew up the military way my entire childhood and I truly loved it. Fast forward from marriage to August 2009... My brother had just been killed in the war, we were struggling financially and in general were just having a hard time making ends meet while also dealing with a child battling cancer. Chris began to toss around the idea of joining the military and from there, things moved rather quickly. He enlisted in the Army in 2010 and was off to basic training a few short months later. Being his wife, I was super nervous yet excited. I was completely used to this lifestyle and didn't mind being the Army Wife. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I knew the war was still going on. I personally battled thoughts of losing him as well, but knew he wanted to honor Paul by serving his country and wanting to better our life as a whole. 

Chris wasn't 18 when he joined. Nope, he actually celebrated his 30th birthday in the middle of basic training. It wasn't quite the celebration he envisioned but it sure was one heck of  a party when he graduated. Looking at him standing there in his ACU's made me super proud of the man I married. He succeeded in all aspects, was one of the highest ranking in his class and I was honored to be his wife. From there, he went on to serve close to 4 years being stationed here at Ft. Eustis. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be located here in Hampton Roads with my husband working at the same base I grew up on. My dad served many years at Ft. Eustis and my brother was stationed at Ft. Eustis during both of his deployments. Chris was even able to work in the building that was named in Paul's memory. What a crazy little world it truly is. 

I'm going to be sad to leave the military way of life but I don't think you can take the military support out of this family. We definitely bleed red, white and blue and will continue to support our troops in all ways of life. Our troops are the ones who continue to keep us free and as a family, we will do all that we can to show our support. It just looks like now we'll be doing if from the road. 

Today it makes it all official. Our military life has come to an end. Chris is officially out of the Army, has signed all of his paperwork and received his "thank yous". From here, we begin our life on the road. This adventurous life we have planned has come from so many experiences of our past. Many of them good and many of them not, but either way, they affect our future. We hope to take the lessons learned, the experiences made, the memories we have and allow those to guide us in our journey. This is where we begin the new chapter in our book. 

So, THANK YOU, to my amazing husband and the most wonderful father in the world to our kids. Thank you for putting us first, for loving us always and for serving your country with honor and pride. We couldn't be more proud of the man that God has put in our lives. Here is to the adventure that lies ahead. We love you always SGT OATMAN! 


"Hold on to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road"
-Phillip Phillips


-June 2011




-September 18, 2014



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Education happens at the beach.

This past week the weather hit 92 on one of the days and so with that kind of heat we headed to the beach for one last day in the sun. With all the kids being in school and no vacationers in our neck of the woods, the beach was pretty much empty. It was kind of like we had our very own private section down in Virginia Beach for a bit of unschooling and boarding time. This past summer has just been so busy and it seems that it had gotten away from us and our time of boarding in the waves. Believe it or not, this was my first chance to get waves all year. How sad is that? Either way, it made my day. I could board all day and never get tired of it. It truly is that fun and what an amazing workout it is. Those are our kind of workouts. The kind that allow you to not feel like you are working out even though you actually are. Trust me, that next morning, I was sore but oh what fun it was.

Beach days also allow for the kiddos to do some schooling. Kind of like working out, learning without knowing it is the best. Montana and Adam had fun chasing crabs and catching horseshoe crabs while Makenna and Myla collected every kind of seashell under the sun. While we were there, we also saw many dolphins swim by and play in the waves as well as fish swim under our feet. Learning from hands on experience are the best kind of ways for them to learn. They won't forget the moment they picked up the crabs or how close those dolphins came to shore. They have practiced writing by drawing in the sand, they have studied what lives in the ocean and they worked on their swimming skills by tumbling in the waves. This is our school, this is our world. Welcome to the M-Stitute.

"We have salt in our veins and sand in our hearts."












Friday, September 12, 2014

Our new pet/s.

If you know me, you know we don't do pets. I have three kids and that is about enough for us. Plus, I'm scared of dogs. I'm not gonna lie, terrified is more the word and when you add the fact that Chris was attacked by a dog the other day, that just sealed the deal. Now the problem is, my kids want something, especially Montana. He wants a lizard, snake, dragon or a frog. That boy is totally into the reptiles and amphibians. Since we homeschool and it's my job to go the route of his interests I decided to suck it up and get him a frog... not just one but two frogs. We used to have a fish and it was a pain in the butt. These frogs are supposed to be "easy". We are to change the water three times a year, feed them twice a week and from there we just study and watch. The only thing that kind of bites is that they just stay in the water. It would have been nice if he could hold and interact more but from here we will move forward. Montana is in love with wildlife. He studies birds, snakes and all bugs. When he grows up he wants to help animals and rescue them. Heaven forbid we kill something in the R.V. We save everything from moths to lady bugs and he actually cries when he sees a snake ran over. He watches shows like Gator Boys, Turtle Man, and River Monsters.  Chris and I would love to find a place for him to get more hands on experience but with his age it's hard. For now, we will help him to continue on his path of rescuing and saving anything of interest. Please help us welcome to the family Bob and Mint. :) 


"Let nature be your teacher."
-William Wordsworth







Monday, September 8, 2014

Craft Shows and School and Cars Dying, OH MY!

There is never a dull moment around here. It's been busy and crazy and hectic. August brought us many vehicle problems. Did I say many, cause I meant a TON! If it wasn't the Camry that wasn't working, then it was the Kia and vise versa. The Camry is a 1993 and has 265,000 miles on it. That car was was good to us and we drove it way past its expiration date. Last week, it had it's last straw and died on us as we were on our way to go pick up the Kia, go figure. Needless to say, my mom had to come pick us up to get the good car and we then sold the Camry. We are now a family of only one vehicle. We're praying the car problems are all behind us now. We're thinking happy thoughts over here. I could go on more about everything that happened but I won't bore you all with exactly what went wrong with each vehicle and when. :)

In the mean time, "school" started. All the schools in our area are back in progress and life is in full swing. The M-stitute has begun, but it's a year round school here so nothing new on our end. We spend our days doing lots of hands on activities, talking about all sorts of subjects and tying in arithmetic, reading and spelling. Our activities are very rarely planned and we move according to each child. This past week we went to the Virginia Aquarium (a favorite of our children), caught crabs down by the shore at the campground, did our annual No School Chuck E Cheese Day, lots of drawing and craft work, and the list goes on. Oh to be an M-stitute child.

Craft season is here. Oh my word is it here. The clip orders are coming in and my mornings are early. I'm not a night person at all so I get up at 5 or so to start working on orders. I'd much rather get up early than stay up late into the night. That is so not me. While I work on others' clip orders, I also have to prepare for my own craft show. Way too much multitasking going on over here. If you are in the area (Hampton Roads, Virginia) be sure to stop by the Newport News Craft Show on October 4 & 5. There are lots of great booths there and you can see little ol' me.

It's Monday and it's raining over here so that means work, movies, crafts and indoor fun. Hope you have a lovely week.